The power of holding hands

“I was sitting on a beach one summer day, watching two children, a boy and a girl, playing in the sand. They were hard at work building an elaborate sandcastle by the water’s edge, with gates and towers and moats and internal passages. Just when they had nearly finished their project, a big wave came along and knocked it down, reducing it to a heap of wet sand. I expected the children to burst into tears, devastated by what had happened to all their hard work. But they surprised me. Instead, they ran up the shore away from the water, laughing and holding hands, and sat down to build another castle. I realized that they had taught me an important lesson. All the things in our lives, all the complicated structures we spend so much time and energy creating, are built on sand. Only our relationships to other people endure. Sooner or later, the wave will come along and knock down what we have worked so hard to build up. When that happens, only the person who has somebody’s hand to hold will be able to laugh.”
- Rabbi Harold Kushner, “Chicken Soup for the Jewish Soul"
For many years, even before Covid, I have felt like the ground beneath my feet has been unstable and shifting. I have felt this in my personal life, my professional life, as well as through my interactions with various Jewish organizations. I have also witnessed how local, state and national politics have radically changed. 
Through the end of the Cold War, I grew up with much more stability and predictability … or at least it felt that way. So much has changed in the past years. 
I often think of the death of the American Dream. From my youth, I was taught that through hard work, dedication and discipline, success was inevitable (almost a birthright). The cold, hard reality of the 21st century is that many of us will not be as economically successful as our parents. We have had to devote great time and energy to accept this and grieve. Personally, I have had to reassess the dreams, hopes and expectations I had for myself and for my children.
Jewish organizations on all levels, across the country, are facing their own challenges as their foundations continue to shift. There are shrinking levels of participation and economic pressures. Even though we describe ourselves as “post-Covid,” we still are navigating the best ways to gather communally; and there is always the possibility of the arrival of another version of Covid or a new pandemic.
At the same time, we are learning about the vast number and variety of unmet needs in our Jewish community. The recent demographic study has been a treasure-trove. How will our various Jewish organizations collaborate to address the needs of the entire Jewish community, whether people are affiliated or formally connected? 
When we discuss the ground shifting beneath our feet, we must acknowledge the political world. Many of us are losing faith in the ideas upon which a functional democracy is based: we can trust election results; we believe that the judicial system is dependable (though in constant need of improvement); our leaders represent the people (not corporations, special interests, or powerful individuals).
And then there is education. That too is under scrutiny. What ideas are to be taught and how? Are we teaching our true history or some propagandistic vision? How do we respond to our fellow citizens who fervently believe that certain books should be banned to protect their children?
We can liken all these realities to structures constructed on foundations of sand. How do we respond when these structures are damaged or even destroyed? We must learn how to repair and rebuild … but we cannot do this alone. There is unique power in relationships. All we need is one friend, family member or confidant to hold our hand. 
Together, we can look at these unpredictable, ever-changing times as an opportunity. What vital repairs can we make? What can we create? Together, we can address the needs, hopes and dreams in every aspect of our lives: personal, familial, professional, communal, economic and political. 
This requires a time of grieving, but by grieving-in-relationship we can get to a different place, a healthier place. We can reassess our priorities, values, hopes and expectations. 
Joyfully, we can move into the future . This may not be the future we expected, but it can be a future filled with meaning and purpose … and a future created, shared and celebrated with others.


Add Comment